Get Renew.org Weekly Emails

Want fresh teachings and disciple making content? Sign up to receive a weekly newsletters highlighting our resources and new content to help equip you in your disciple making journey. We’ll also send you emails with other equipping resources from time to time.

41 minutes
Download

Inviting Church Leaders into a Transformative Vision

December 11, 2023

This past summer, after a time of prayer, a meeting was initiated by the leadership of RENEW.org. The vision was to bring together 40 senior ministers/pastors who were around 40 years of age based upon a renewed vision of the Restoration Movement. RENEW.org is broader than the Restoration Movement, including Baptists, Community Church leaders, etc., but our roots are grounded in this movement, as we attempt to represent and promote its best theology. A further goal was to ensure that at least 25% of the attendees were African American and Latino senior ministers/pastors.

Several others joined our RENEW.org leadership in leading this endeavor.

  • Mike Williams (the new president of Harding University)
  • Orpheus Heyward (respected African-American preacher and point-leader of the Nehemiah Summit)
  • Doug Crozier (the Solomon Foundation)
  • Dave Clayton (preacher and point-leader of Awaken Nashville/Onward Church Planting)
  • Josh Howard (preacher and leader of Disciple Making Movements in South Asia)
  • Brett Andrews (preacher, RENEW.org board member, a key leader at Passion 4 Planting and Renew Movement Church Planting)

The goals of this meeting were limited.

It was not merely to acknowledge unity in Christ. That kind of meeting has happened several times in recent decades among select leaders from Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.

The primary goal of this meeting was to promote a vision of future collaboration in disciple making, the greatest mission on planet earth.


“The primary goal of this meeting was to promote a vision of future collaboration in disciple making, the greatest mission on planet earth.”


We purposely focused on younger leaders. Their time is now. They have an ability to lead us where the older generations have not yet gone, into a bright future. The event started at noon on December 5 and ended at noon on December 6. Many attendees described the meeting as transformative.

This post is to provide a brief summary of the vision and the meeting.

We believe this vision can literally change the future of the Restoration Movement and the future of the leaders and churches that collaborate in pursuing what it describes. To help everyone grasp the historical rootedness of this vision, we gave all attendees an advanced copy of the book that RENEW.org and College Press are republishing in early 2024 titled, The Fool of God: The Story of Alexander Campbell, Who Made Scripture His Final Authority and Catalyzed a Movement.

One attendant, Jonathan Storment (preacher of the Pleasant Valley Church of Christ), described the gathering as something that helped everyone to 1) build on a stronger center and 2) network with other like-minded leaders.

I will summarize the meeting in seven summary points.

1. We Focus on Jesus Christ, His Gospel, and His Kingdom.

Our hope and focus is Jesus Christ. We uphold a key saying: The Jesus we proclaim, the gospel we preach, and the faith we teach will determine the kind of disciples we make. Here is a summary of the gospel message from RENEW.org’s faith statement that you may find helpful.

The Gospel – We believe God created all things and made human beings in his image, so that we could enjoy a relationship with him and each other. But we lost our way, through Satan’s influence. We are now spiritually dead, separated from God. Without his help, we gravitate toward sin and self-rule. The gospel is God’s good news of reconciliation. It was promised to Abraham and David and revealed in Jesus’ life, ministry, teaching, and sacrificial death on the cross. The gospel is the saving action of the triune God. The Father sent the Son into the world to take on human flesh and redeem us. Jesus came as the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. He ushered in the kingdom of God, died for our sins according to Scripture, was buried, and was raised on the third day. He defeated sin and death and ascended to heaven. He is seated at the right hand of God as Lord and he is coming back for his disciples. Through the Spirit, we are transformed and sanctified. God will raise everyone for the final judgment. Those who trusted and followed Jesus by faith will not experience punishment for their sins and separation from God in hell. Instead, we will join together with God in the renewal of all things in the consummated kingdom. We will live together in the new heaven and new earth where we will glorify God and enjoy him forever.


“We will join together with God in the renewal of all things in the consummated kingdom.”


Many have found that, historically, Restoration Movement leaders assumed, but did not emphasize, doctrines like the centrality of Jesus and his gospel. They lived in a North American culture for the past 250 years where most people claimed to be Christians, attended church (even if irregularly), and believed in Jesus’ atoning death on the cross. Because leaders could assume these teachings were known, they focused instead on secondary doctrines that needed to be restored regarding church organization and polity.

We might consider the focus of the last two hundred and fifty years of the Restoration Movement in North America to be like an “Apollos ministry,” as described in Acts 18. Priscilla and Aquila met a recent convert named Apollos. The Bible describes in Acts 18:24-26 how they helped him:

“He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John…. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.”[1]

The Restoration Movement often took people who were already convinced about Jesus and Scripture and “explained to them the way of God more adequately.”

The upshot was a restoration of vital teachings, such as the following:

  • Baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins as an expression of personal faith.
  • Weekly communion with the cup and unleavened bread.
  • Appointing deacons and elders in leadership roles in the local church.

“We might consider the focus of the last two hundred and fifty years of the Restoration Movement in North America to be like an ‘Apollos ministry.'”


These were matters often not practiced in local churches in the last two hundred and fifty years. Yet a problem arises when we assume primary things (such as the centrality of Jesus and the gospel) and focus on other things. The non-central things can become more important than they should be, eclipsing that which is central. If we are honest, this is what some churches in the Restoration Movement have done.

We must always keep our focus on Jesus Christ, his gospel, and the kingdom, as Scripture teaches. If we ask ourselves, “What does God want for every person on planet earth?” the answer is simple. God wants everyone to come to know and place their faith in Jesus Christ and his gospel, to enter the kingdom, and then, by faith, become more and more like Jesus Christ. This clarity is vitally important.

2. We Surrender to Jesus’ Kingship by Making Scripture Alone Our Final Authority.

I (Bobby Harrington) became a disciple of Jesus at the University of Calgary (Canada) and was baptized on my 20th birthday. I was discipled to closely read and obey Scripture. It was an exciting journey, and the process completely changed my life.

Yet, by the time I was in my mid-twenties, I was confused.

My wife and I had spent time in a church that was legalistic, and then, after trying to grapple with their approach, we left for another church. We liked the second church, but it had a progressive spirit. It was too concerned, we came to see, with molding the teachings of Jesus to fit what the culture around us was saying. We were confused about our future direction and what to look for in a church.

We then found a book that unexpectedly helped us in very convincing ways. We read The Fool of God, which was a historical novel based upon Alexander Campbell’s life and the principles of the Restoration Movement.

The book won us over to adopting the movement’s core value: surrendering to Jesus’ Lordship by following Scripture alone as our final authority.

This core value is a resilient value, ideal for any age, but especially our age when truth is secondary to prevailing narratives. God’s truth in Scripture comes first. All the narratives we build need to be subject to re-interpretation based upon a better understanding of Scripture.


“All the narratives we build need to be subject to re-interpretation based upon a better understanding of Scripture.”


The core value of surrendering to Jesus’s kingship by following Scripture as our final authority, at its best, is simply the pursuit of upholding “the apostolic tradition” or “the teachings of the apostles.” Stated differently, it is upholding “the canon of Scripture that created and sustains the Church.” We are simply seeking to be careful, canonical people to God’s glory and honor.[2]

This core value knits me with leaders such as Orpheus Heyward, Mike Williams, Dave Clayton, Brett Andrews, and all the other leaders from our various sub-streams in the Restoration Movement.

Here is a longer summary from RENEW.org’s faith statement of that value of depending on God’s Word.

God’s Word – We believe God gave us the 66 books of the Bible to be received as the inspired, authoritative, and infallible Word of God for salvation and life. The documents of Scripture come to us as diverse literary and historical writings. Despite their complexities, they can be understood, trusted, and followed. We want to do the hard work of wrestling to understand Scripture in order to obey God. We want to avoid the errors of interpreting Scripture through the sentimental lens of our feelings and opinions or through a complex re-interpretation of plain meanings so that the Bible says what our culture says. Ours is a time for both clear thinking and courage. Because the Holy Spirit inspired all 66 books, we honor Jesus’ Lordship by submitting our lives to all that God has for us in them. 

Please note this value one more time. I believe it is the core, abiding value from our Restoration Movement heritage which unites the sub-streams of our movement:

Surrendering to Jesus’ lordship by following Scripture alone as our final authority.


“We believe God gave us the 66 books of the Bible to be received as the inspired, authoritative, and infallible Word of God for salvation and life.”


3. We Make Disciple Making the Core Mission of the Church.

Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone, Walter Scott, and others in the Restoration Movement helped us prioritize evangelism and local church structures based upon God’s Word. Evangelism is indeed vital. And a lot of good spade work has been done on what it means to restore the ordinances and biblical structures of the local church. It is vital to practice these elements as faithful disciples of Jesus.

But the point of the local church is not just to get people saved and attend a church that has practices and a structure based upon the Word of God.

It runs deeper and becomes personal for everyone.

The point of the local church is to help everyone to place their faith in Jesus and then form their entire lives around him. To state it with theological clarity: we are to make disciples of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father.

What does that mean practically?

It means that we focus on being disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus, and our disciple making results in planting churches that make even more disciples of Jesus. It means that we are empowered in this great mission because of our love for God and love for people.


“We focus on being disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus, and our disciple making results in planting churches that make even more disciples of Jesus.”


In this, we follow Jesus’ example. He loved his disciples and spent time in intentional relationship with them. His priority was intentional relational disciple making.

Our mission in the local church is clear: lead people to place their faith in Jesus (John 3:16; Acts 2:38) and then help them to become more and more like Jesus through the end of their lives (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:20). Again, we must love people enough to build churches based upon intentional, relational environments where disciple making is the focus behind all that we do.

Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28:18–20 can serve as a laser-focused summary of how we love others.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Again, the simple keys are to help people find salvation in Jesus Christ (at baptism), then to teach them to obey everything Jesus Christ taught, and then for everyone to rely on Jesus’ empowering presence through the Holy Spirit until Jesus returns.


“We must love people enough to build churches based upon intentional, relational environments where disciple making is the focus behind all that we do.”


What is a disciple of Jesus? Here is a simple definition based in Jesus’ invitation to Peter and Andrew:

And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17, ESV).

In this single verse, we find three elements of what it means to be a disciple:

  • Following Jesus (“Follow me”)
  • Being changed by Jesus (“and I will make you become”)
  • Joining Jesus’ mission (“fishers of men”)

This framework is the basis by which many church leaders working with RENEW.org Network have adopted the following definition of a disciple:

A disciple is someone who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and is committed to the mission of Jesus.[3]


“A disciple is someone who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and is committed to the mission of Jesus.”


C.S. Lewis described our focus on disciple making succinctly in his book, Mere Christianity:

“The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose.”

4. We Rely on the Holy Spirit through Prayer and Fasting.

We seek to build prevailing churches in our cultural context as we move into the middle of the twenty-first century. But if we hope to build more and more of the kind of churches we have been describing, we must emphasize something that has been a weakness in many Restoration Movement circles: praying and fasting for the Holy Spirit’s presence and power.

The church in Antioch launched a vitally important mission in Acts 13. Scripture teaches us something important about how it was launched.

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:2-3)

Their mission—and surely our missions today—came out of time set aside for worshiping the Lord and fasting. It was in this context that the Holy Spirit guided the church to set apart Barnabas and Saul for their great work. We believe that this kind of focus on the Holy Spirit and prayer and fasting is essential.


“Their mission—and surely our missions today—came out of time set aside for worshiping the Lord and fasting.”


As we look around the world outside North America today, we see movements that are just like our Restoration Movement when it comes to prioritizing the teaching of Scripture alone as their final authority. Disciple Making Movements (DMM) have arisen in the last thirty years around the world, yet they have not taken root in North America. These movements rely on similar values to ours in the Restoration Movement: they simply teach people to dive into Scripture with others, review what it teaches, obey what it teaches, and share what they’ve learned with others.

In the last thirty years, disciple making movements have reached over one percent of the entire world’s population—over 81 million people—including up to 2-3% of the people in China and India. You can check them out at 2414now.net.

We pray for this kind of movement in North America in our time.

Josh Howard helps lead a disciple making movement in South Asia that is witnessing amazing results. At our recent gathering at Harding University, Josh shared what he has seen and experienced—and what he hopes to see and help with in North America.

Here is the key difference between disciple making movements and most Restoration Movement churches in North America (and almost all other churches in North America): disciple making movements are focused on praying and fasting for God’s power. If we want to truly restore the church of the New Testament, we must restore the way Jesus and the early church prayed and relied on the Holy Spirit.


“If we want to truly restore the church of the New Testament, we must restore the way Jesus and the early church prayed and relied on the Holy Spirit.”


Jesus’ ministry was launched out of his focus on prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit. He started his public focus after spending forty days of fasting and prayer in the desert (Luke 4:1-3). He selected his twelve disciples after spending the night in prayer (Luke 6:12). And Mark 1:35 describes his regular practice when it says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

The early church followed a similar pattern. Acts 1:14 describes how “they all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” And Acts 2:42 describes their regular practice when it says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” In a similar way, we believe that God is the author of renewal and that he invites us to access and join him through prayer and fasting for the Holy Spirit’s work of renewal. RENEW.org’s faith statement summarizes this in the following way:

Holy Spirit – We believe God’s desire is for everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Many hear the gospel but do not believe it because they are blinded by Satan and resist the pull of the Holy Spirit. We encourage everyone to listen to the Word and let the Holy Spirit convict them of their sin and draw them into a relationship with God through Jesus. We believe that when we are born again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we are to live as people who are filled, empowered, and led by the Holy Spirit. This is how we walk with God and discern his voice. A prayerful life, rich in the Holy Spirit, is fundamental to true discipleship and living in step with the kingdom reign of Jesus. We seek to be a prayerful, Spirit-led fellowship.


“We seek to be a prayerful, Spirit-led fellowship.”


At the Harding event, Dave Clayton led a specific discussion on the power of relying on the Holy Spirit. Through Awaken Nashville, Dave has led several prayer and fasting collaborations for the churches in Middle Tennessee, including one campaign where over 40,000 Christians in over six hundred churches joined together in forty days of fasting and prayer.

We, too, are praying for revival. We are praying that God will lead us to do what only God can empower us to accomplish.

5. We Collaborate Cross-Culturally, Black, White, and Latino Working Together.

We want to collaborate across various streams in the Restoration Movement and beyond. We want this so that we can help each other to be more effective in disciple making, receive benefit from each other’s strengths in ministry, and, especially, to plant new churches together designed to reach new generations as we move into the middle of this new century.

But we have an obstacle: we each come from streams that bring different cultures (this is a good thing!), as well as baggage. And unfortunately, many of us have histories of conflict and mistrust of each other.

Yet we have a vision of a new future. We are hoping to see Caucasians, African Americans, and Latinos work together in authentic collaboration. We want to see churches that use instruments in their weekend services work with churches that do not use instruments in their weekend services. We desire to see churches that have entrepreneurial, staff-led leadership cultures work with churches that have more steady, elder-led leadership cultures. We are asking churches whose strength has been doctrinal purity (a good thing!) to work with churches whose strength has been to evangelize and reach lost people (also a good thing!).


“We want to collaborate across various streams in the Restoration Movement and beyond.”


Such cross-cultural collaboration will not be easy.

But it will be worth it. We can help each other. We can accomplish more together than we can apart.

There are two areas of pursuit we need to get serious about if we are going to make our collaboration work.

1. A Spirit of Humility.

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). We must start with an awareness and transparency about our own weaknesses and shortcomings. In Ephesians 4, the apostle Paul taught the Christians in Ephesus to acknowledge what they had in common in terms of the essential elements of the faith, but before that, he described the attitude toward one another that was necessary for such unity to take root:

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).

With that attitude established, we can remember to lock arms around our common foundation.

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

For us, unity around these elements will be necessary, but a humble attitude comes first.


“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”


2. Hard Conversations and Forgiveness.

Part of our pursuit of unity and collaboration has been having some hard conversations, especially between Caucasian and African American church leaders. It has personally been very helpful to hear African American leaders tell of the many wounds and scars from things that have happened in the history of our heritage. We acknowledged that these conversations aren’t comfortable for some of us, but we committed to have those conversations.

At our Harding event, Orpheus Heyward offered his insights on how these kinds of conversations can be held with African Americans.

Listen HERE

Among the goals of our collaboration are forgiveness and reconciliation. This will please God. After all, in the new heavens and the new earth, we are all going to be united, as Revelation 7:9 teaches us:

“I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”

Our vision is to experience part of that multi-cultural unity now, at this pivotal juncture in our history.


“I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”


6. We Seek to Unite the Streams of the Restoration Movement on a Strong Theological Center.

Too often, peripheral or personal theological matters have become central. Or we have aspired to a unity simply based on good will or a vague historical rootedness. By contrast, our vision places a healthy theology at the center of unity. We believe Scripture teaches what is theologically central to the best of our heritage, and we can unite in a common mission based upon that center.

Key to our theological platform is knowing what is essential, important, and personal in our faith. We have sometimes hurled false judgments toward each other. Some do it from the left, others from the right. Each of our streams has at times been prideful and looked down on the other streams based upon false judgments.

For those who tend toward a rigid traditionalism, we note that even though God’s Word warned us not to make disputable matters central (Romans 14:1-15:8), some have drawn some lines unnecessarily. For those who tend toward theological progressivism, the difficulties of culture can make us turn the opposite direction and be too accepting of things that tickle our ears instead of holding to sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:1-5). At times in our history, we have had prominent spokespersons within our unique streams who have questioned if those in other streams were even saved or worthy of full respect. We can hope that such things are vestiges of the past, but the impact of this thinking remains.


“At times in our history, we have had prominent spokespersons within our unique streams who have questioned if those in other streams were even saved or worthy of full respect.”


This is why our collaboration starts first with Jesus, his gospel, and his kingdom. Our leaders and churches must be clear on what saves (“essential elements”), what is worth standing for in our local churches (elements which are important but not essential for salvation), and what is peripheral and personal. RENEW.org’s faith statement summarizes these in the following way.

Christian Convictions – We believe the Scriptures reveal three distinct elements of the faith: essential elements which are necessary for salvation; important elements which are to be pursued so that we faithfully follow Christ; and personal elements or opinion. The gospel is essential. Every person who is indwelt and sealed by God’s Holy Spirit because of their faith in the gospel is a brother or a sister in Christ. Important but secondary elements of the faith are vital. Our faithfulness to God requires us to seek and pursue them, even as we acknowledge that our salvation may not be dependent on getting them right. And thirdly, there are personal matters of opinion, disputable areas where God gives us personal freedom. But we are never at liberty to express our freedom in a way that causes others to stumble in sin. In all things, we want to show understanding, kindness, and love.

In helping us move toward greater unity, Orpheus Heyward led the way. At the Harding event, he described his vantage point as a respected leader in the A Cappella tradition. You can listen to a summary of his thoughts in the following presentation that was recorded.

-Click HERE to Listen-

In addition to rejecting an unbiblical rigidness within our heritage, we must also turn from progressivism on the left. I encourage every church leader to read and heed the recent post by Bryan Laughlin and Doug Ponder titled “Christianity and Functional Liberalism (Or How Evangelicalism Denies the faith).” The driving impulse of progressivism is to adapt Scripture to suit the ideals of contemporary culture.

Within Christian churches, we at the RENEW.org network have been pleased to partner with schools like TCM International Institute, Ozark Christian College, Central College of the Bible, Maritime Christian College, Great Lakes Christian College, and others who reject both progressivism and sectarianism. And this is also why we were pleased to partner with Harding University. Mike Williams, the new President of Harding, joined with Monte Cox, the head of the Bible department, in explicitly stating that they are aligned with RENEW.org’s faith statement (click HERE to read).


“The driving impulse of progressivism is to adapt Scripture to suit the ideals of contemporary culture.”


Harding University has around 5,000 undergraduate students, making it the largest undergraduate liberal arts university in the Restoration Movement. They are explicitly committed to pursue this core with us, making their school a theological home for students from Christian Churches and other like-minded groups, along the lines of the theological vision of this meeting.

Our world is changing fast in North America. Much has been made of the breakdown in the Judeo-Christian foundations of our culture, but there is also a breakdown in the evangelical consensus that has guided many of our churches for over two hundred years. Many leaders and churches are fuzzy on what Scripture teaches and where they stand.

Again, that ambiguity may have worked in the past when there was a strong evangelical consensus among churches, but those days are gone. Too many leaders are still seeing the world through the lens of the 1990s, not the lens of clarity we need as we head into 2024.

To that point, I want to mention a helpful voice I have come to appreciate. Josh Howerton is a young lead pastor reaching thousands of people in their twenties every week. I connected with him recently on something he posted on social media. He pointed out that since the 90’s, many ministers/pastors have strategically avoided publicly teaching culturally controversial issues, saying things like…

  • “We draw circles, not lines.”
  • “We wanna be known for what we’re FOR, not what we’re against.”
  • “We handle those issues privately in groups, not publicly in services.”
  • “We don’t take positions, we have conversations.”

Josh gave several reasons why ministers/pastors might be running a 1996 play in a 2024 world. The new generation needs a better playbook.


“The new generation needs a better playbook.”


Here are four of the reasons he gave for why that 1996 playbook is outdated (he gave eight):

  1. The sheep are left to the wolves.
  2. Evangelism is harmed.
  3. You are not “loving your neighbor” like you might think.
  4. Don’t require teenagers in your church to have more courage than their minister/pastor.

Regarding #2, Howerton writes, “The woke sexual revolution has devolved into absurdity, and many lost people are looking at churches with interest and thinking, “Who else is gonna tell my daughter not to become a dude and help us have a stable family?” Cultural insanity has created a unique evangelistic opportunity.” You can read Josh’s full post by clicking here.

Clarity is kindness. Clarity is essential for disciple making and faithfulness.

Our children need us to uphold and disciple them in strong, God-honoring theology. The people in our churches need to be grounded in that strong, theological center—in our sermons, classes, and especially in our discipling groups.


“Clarity is kindness. Clarity is essential for disciple making and faithfulness.”


Countless millions need to be reached—and can be reached—by churches that have a strong center. Thankfully, we have many churches that are setting the example.

7. We Unite to Collaborate on the Greatest Mission on Earth: Making Disciples.

The central goal of our collaboration is that we can pursue the mission of making disciples of King Jesus together. Again, as mentioned in the introduction, our goal is much more than acknowledging from our various streams that we are all Christians together. We cannot say it strongly enough: the eternal destinies of millions of people lie in the balance. And it is not just lost people that we are concerned about; there are too many saved people in our churches who, through immaturity and lack of growth, are vulnerable to being steered off course by cultural winds. There are multiple seductive invitations away from Jesus’ gospel, whether it’s allegiance to a political party, adoption of a progressive ethical system, a me-centered individualism, or some other pretend gospel. Many of our people lack spiritual maturity and Christ-likeness. God wants something better for all of us.

That’s why disciple making is our focus. We unite to help each other make serious disciples of King Jesus.

Please take note: Gratefully, we at RENEW.org are not the only ones committed to these ideals within the Restoration Movement. We seek to bless, encourage, help, and cheer for everyone in our movement who is also working on effective strategies in this great cause. In addition, the vision we are putting forward here is not intended as any kind of basis for fellowship or rationale for censure or restriction. We seek to be collaborative with all who have similar ideals, no matter what label or banner they may fly under. As our spiritual forefathers often said, we are Christians only, but not the only Christians.


“As our spiritual forefathers often said, we are Christians only, but not the only Christians.”


At the same time, we want to come together with those who are like-minded so that we can be as effective as possible in this mission. We summarize it at RENEW.org in the following way:

Disciple making is God’s plan “A” to redeem the world and manifest the reign of his kingdom. We want to be disciples who make disciples because of our love for God and others. We personally seek to become more and more like Jesus through his Spirit so that Jesus would live through us. To help us focus on Jesus, his sacrifice on the cross, our unity in him, and his coming return, we typically share communion in our weekly gatherings. We desire the fruits of biblical disciple making which are disciples who live and love like Jesus and “go” into every corner of society and to the ends of the earth. Disciple making is the engine that drives our missional service to those outside the church. We seek to be known where we live for the good that we do in our communities. We love and serve all people, as Jesus did, no strings attached. At the same time, as we do good for others, we also seek to form relational bridges that we prayerfully hope will open doors for teaching people the gospel of the kingdom and the way of salvation.

Here are a few of the ways that we at RENEW.org hope to collaborate with each other for greater disciple-making effectiveness.

Resources. We are creating resources together—books, blogs, podcasts, etc.—and are sharing these resources across our churches.

Ministry Pipeline. We want to work together to fill up the depleted pipeline of church leaders. At the Harding meeting, Doug Crozier pointed out the emerging crisis we face because our churches and schools are not raising up enough senior ministers/pastors, associate ministers, church planters, etc. for the future.

At RENEW.org, we are all committed to work together to disciple, train and raise up a new generation to more than fill the pipeline. For example, Matt Wilson described at the Harding meeting how he is focused on raising up high school students with a vision of being in ministry. We also described how RENEW.org is seeking to create or collaborate in creating certificates in theology and apologetics to be utilized in local churches, where everyday disciples, ministers, future elders, and church planters are raised up.


“We are all committed to work together to disciple, train and raise up a new generation to more than fill the pipeline.”


Gatherings. We also champion these teachings as well as leaders of the various Restoration Movement streams in our national and regional gatherings. At our gatherings, you will find speakers, both men and women, from Christian Churches, Churches of Christ, and other like-minded organizations and networks committed to solid theology for fueling disciple making.

Strategies. We are helping each other with disciple-making strategies for leaders and for our churches:

  • We share disciple-making strategies to reach lost people.
  • We share disciple-making strategies to bring people to maturity.
  • We share effective practical leadership perspectives and resources.

We encourage people to partner with others who have the same foundations.

We have over 300 senior ministers/pastors from the various streams of our heritage in our Renew Learning Communities that regularly meet to help us fulfill our mission: renewing the teachings of Jesus to fuel disciple making.


“We are helping each other with disciple-making strategies for leaders and for our churches.”


Church Planting. One of the most exciting elements of renewing the best of the Restoration Movement is Renew Movement, a partner ministry to RENEW.org Network. Its point leader is Todd Wilson, who for 18 years served as a co-founder and the CEO of the Exponential Church Planting Network.

At the Gathering, Brett Andrews shared the exciting vision of Renew Movement church planting. The vision is one where churches collaborate with each other—each church providing resources, leaders, and money so that churches plant churches. The current vision is that we will work together to see 500 or more churches planted in the next seven years. This means Christian Churches working with Churches of Christ to plant churches. And our vision is to collaborate and plant churches with any group of likeminded individuals who believe what we believe and are committed to disciple making like we are. This will include collaboration with Community Churches, Baptist churches, and others, and with us all embracing the same theological and philosophical foundation that we are describing here. It means all of us working together to plant churches—theologically strong, healthy disciple-making churches.

We are collaborating to make disciples who make disciples who plant churches that make disciples (who make more disciples who plant more churches, and so on). Our RENEW.org faith statement ends with these words:

We believe that Jesus is coming back to earth in order to bring this age to an end. Jesus will reward the saved and punish the wicked, and finally destroy God’s last enemy, death. He will put all things under the Father, so that God may be all in all forever. That is why we have urgency for the Great Commission—to make disciples of all nations. We like to look at the Great Commission as an inherent part of God’s original command to “be fruitful and multiply.” We want to be disciples of Jesus who love people and help them to be disciples of Jesus. We are a movement of disciples who make disciples who help renew existing churches and who start new churches that make more disciples. We want to reach as many as possible—until Jesus returns and God restores all creation to himself in the new heaven and new earth. 


“We want to reach as many as possible—until Jesus returns and God restores all creation to himself in the new heaven and new earth.”


Every time we read and connect with the Restoration Movement story, we are left feeling both grateful and hopeful. We are grateful for the Restoration Movement and those who chose the path of Scripture as their final authority over the easier path of just following the traditions they inherited. We are also hopeful because we believe God will use our commitment to Jesus, the gospel, the kingdom, and Scripture to bring about faith-filled, Spirit-led, kingdom-advancing collaboration in our time.

We anticipate a bright, hope-filled future into the middle of the 21st century and beyond. We want the disciples we are making to be able to look back on our time with gratitude and hopefulness because we showed resilience and courage for their future.

We are hoping for more meetings like the Harding gathering in additional locations. We hope you will join us.


[1] Unless otherwise noted, Scripture verses are in NIV.

[2] The following resources help explain our views on the nature of following the canon as the final authority (versus traditions, etc.), and the nature of the origin of the Canon. We commend the excellent contemporary statement of the final nature of Scripture found in Anthony N.S. Lane, “Sola Scriptura? Making Sense of a Post-Reformation Slogan,” in A Pathway into The Holy Scripture, edited by Philip Satterthwaite and David Wright (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994). For background on the creation and nature of the Canon, see Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), Michael J. Kruger, Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books (Crossway, 2012) and The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2020).

[3] For more information on this definition and how to use it, see Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert Colemans’s book DiscipleShift: Five Shifts to Help You Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013) and the shorter book by Bobby Harrington and Scott Segar, Disciple Making: The Core Mission of the Church (Renew.org, 2021).

Get Renew.org Weekly Emails

Want fresh teachings and disciple making content? Sign up to receive a weekly newsletters highlighting our resources and new content to help equip you in your disciple making journey. We’ll also send you emails with other equipping resources from time to time.

You Might Also Like

Was Peter the First Pope?

Was Peter the First Pope?

Was Peter the first Pope? In the following excerpt from Tony Dupree’s eBook Differences Between Protestant and Catholic: My Search for the Biblical Path, Tony explores the Catholic belief that Peter was the first Roman pope in light of what the New Testament teaches.  I believed that the Pope was the head of the Church […]

More
Bless Your People

Bless Your People

If you sneeze and someone is nearby to hear you, you’ll likely hear them say, “Bless you!” According to grammarist.com, Gesundheit is an interjection used to wish good health to someone who has just sneezed. It comes from the German language, where it means, literally, “Health!” In German it is used as the equivalent of […]

More